As an answer to the weakness question, I am debating if I should use "I have let my external network slip. I had to step back from attending conferences and participating in our state association." Pros: it is true. Con: I think it might give the impression that I am looking to increase my network in order to get a job (meaning I won't be staying at the job I am interviewing for long after I have accepted the position). Would this be a good idea or are the pitfalls too steep to use it as an aswer to this critical interview question?
As a follow-up to the statement, I would say that I was pursuing a doctorate degree and this lead me to withdrawl from state organizations, which I had been a part of up until that point. I felt I needed to focus my energy on my degree. My external network is important to me because it is a resource I can go to when I have a question and a source for inspiration. I am now working to restore and expand this network by contacting at least one new or former colleauge a week, with a goal of 50 colleagues by the end of the year.